La ilaha ilAllah is the first part of what is known as Kalimah Tayyibah and means 'There is no God but Allah'. By reciting it, one enters the fold of Islam marking the start of a new life. This declaration is the critical stage in the life of a Muslim since it reflects not only the inner conviction of his heart and mind, but also his commitment to live by the Guidance of Allah and the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) to the exclusion of all others.
But why does the declaration begin with negation (there is no god) before stating belief in Allah? The answer to this question contains the clue to our decision about the direction of our lives. Indeed, it tells us about the profound impact (or lack of it) we find among the daily lives of Muslims today.
The reason why the declaration starts with the rejection of all gods is simple: we need to clean our hearts and minds from all conceptual impurities and false loyalties before sowing the seeds of faith. For you must reject something before accepting anything else. This will let faith grow and in consequence will enable the person to reap powerful support from Allah. That is why Allah says;
"Whoever (first) rejects Taghoot and (then) believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, which never breaks" [al-Baqarah; 2: 256]
All the prophets and messengers of Allah were principally teaching the same thing: La Ilaha lila Allah:
"O my people! worship Allah! you have no other god but Him (7:59) This is precisely what Nuh (Noah) said; Hud declared (7:65); and Salih affirmed" [7:73]. Shuaib gave the same message (7:85). The same doctrine was repeated and confirmed by Prophets Musa, Isa (radiAllahu anhum), and Mohammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam)
"Say; Truly I am a warner: no god is there but Allah, the One, Supreme, and Irresistible." [38:65]
"Say: Verily, I am commanded to serve Allah, and follow with sincere devotion his deen." [39:11]
One Muslim scholar Abul A'la Maududi explains La ilaha ilAllah by using four basic terms from the Qur'an: Ilah (Deity/God), Rabb (Lord), Ibadah (Worship and devotion), and deen (religion, Complete system (way of life))
The four words, and their derivatives, are repeated many times in the Qur'an; the word Ilah (147 times), Rabb (975 times), Ibadah (275 times), and deen (94 times). Note that the word deen is an all encompassing concept dealing with life as an integrated whole. It is not restricted to the so called "religious" observances, practices, and rituals.
In the light of these four basic terms, La ilaha illa Allah means:
Allah is our Rabb and our Ilah; there is no Rabb and no Ilah except He. To Him alone we make Ibadah; and only His deen we adopt and sincerely follow.
In the light of this definition, it is clear that the whole dispute between the unbelievers and the Prophets (radiAllahu anhum) centered around the uncompromising demand of the prophets that the unbelievers should recognize the very being whom they acknowledged as their creator, as their Rabb and Ilah, and should assign this position to none else.
There are many important consequences for appreciating the full meaning and implications of La ilaha illa Allah, including the following three:
· Absolute freedom of the human conscience from servitude to, or subjection by, anyone or anything; and realization that one's life, livelihood, and sustenance are all in the hands of Allah and Allah alone.
· The natural urge for making ibadah to an ilah will be directed towards the true Ilah (Allah), rather than towards one or more false ilahs (false gods), whether they be humans, or material things.
· Following the true deen of Allah gives a sense of direction, and a meaning to one's life in the present world, and leads to success in the Hereafter.
I pray to Almighty Allah to help us in appreciating the meaning and implications of La ilaha lIla Allah, and in translating its meaning in our daily lives. Ameen.
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